Written by: James Oswald @SirBenfro
Published by: Wildfire @Wildfirebks
“Undercover ops are always dangerous, but DC Constance Fairchild never expected things to go this wrong.
Returning to their base of operations, an anonymous office in a shabby neighbourhood, she finds the bloodied body of her boss, and friend, DI Pete Copperthwaite. He’s been executed – a single shot to the head.
In the aftermath, it seems someone in the Met is determined to make sure that blame for the wrecked operation falls squarely on Con’s shoulders. She is cut loose and cast out, angry and alone with her grief… right until the moment someone also tries to put a bullet through her head.
There’s no place to hide, and no time to cry.”
That’s a tweet I sent out after a commute to and from work in my car listening to an audio book.
That audio book was “No Time To Cry” by James Oswald.
A book so good I wanted to sit in my car longer.
Just to hear the next bit.
I’m no stranger to James Oswald’s books. I was an early adopter of his work way back when his first Inspector Tony Mclean book ” Natural Causes” was self published. I’m a fierce supporter of his books and have screamed far and wide for people to read them on social media, but despite having this blog for nearly five years now, this is the first of his books I’ve reviewed.
I haven’t read any of the Mclean books past “Dead Men’s Bones” despite owning them all in Hardback, Paperback and audio formats.
This isn’t anything to do with not wanting to, or the books being bad.
In 2016 my mother died of lung cancer. It was a long, drawn out and agonizing death. Both for her and for me to have to watch. I had for the last two years of my mothers life been reading James Oswald’s books aloud to her when I’d call round to visit. Mostly when my dad went out on a Friday night to go to the Credit Union or his only respite from the frankly amazing 24/7 care he gave to my mum in her last years – his once a week trip to play golf on a Saturday for 18 holes.
I would sit for a few hours and read to her the exploits of her and my favorite detective. She’d laugh at my ridiculous attempts at a Scottish accent every time. I realize now that although towards the end reading had become difficult for her she could just as easily have listened to the professional official audio books read by Ian Hanmore. I think she thought, that I thought, I was doing something helpful. Cancer is a disease that leaves you as a loved one feeling totally helpless. There’s nothing you can do as the person you love is eaten away. As amazing as James’s books are, reading to her helped me more than it ever helped her.
As a result though I couldn’t even look at the name Inspector Tony McLean in type after she died. I’d try to read the next book in the series and have to put it down every time. I tried to listen to the audio books and had to turn it off. Cancer hadn’t just taken mum from me it had also taken my favorite literary character.
Enough about the books I haven’t been able to read though and onto the one I could.
No Time To Cry, the first of the Constance Fairchild books introduces us to the lead character in almost immediate peril. With very little scene setting or faffing about Oswald throws us straight into the now turned upside down life of Detective Constable Fairchild just as her friend and Commanding Officer Pete Copperthwaite is murdered during an under cover operation. Her actions are immediately questioned, she’s under suspicion and is suspended pending investigation. This breakneck introduction to the character gives you very little time to get to know Con, but instead makes you feel like you are experiencing events just as she is. Her confusion is your confusion and as the story progresses every little reveal of the plot feels like you the reader are alongside her discovering it for yourself.
As you get to know her a little you can’t help but find yourself rooting for Con. She behaves like someone in her situation would. She acts and reacts like someone with her set of skills as a detective. At no point does Oswald make her unbelievable or use Deus Ex Machina to get her out of a bind. His research into police training has to be extensive because everything about her role feels right.
As well as her on the job peril, the plot weaves in and out of her relationship with her estranged family. Although Oswald’s police procedural aspects aren’t that procedural this allows for some interesting developments in this story and hopefully future Fairchild stories. I particularly enjoyed some of the extravagant names given to the other Fairchild family that I don’t want to spoil here, but I found myself smiling, waiting to find out what others had been christened as they came up.
Minor characters don’t feel like they are minor, they are so fleshed out. I’m already deeply in love with Mrs Feltham, Con’s neighbour and as as usual Oswald has made a rod for his own back by making the greatest character in the entire book a cat – just like he did in the McLean series. This one is a cat called “Cat” that he will have to keep alive forever lest he be hunted down with pitchforks. While Tony Mclean doesn’t feature in this despite Con making a few trips up north in No Time To Cry it’s obvious they do exist in the same universe as a recurring face from McLean’s world pops up here to great dramatic and mysterious effect.
Oswald’s dialogue, especially in scenes of confrontation is just excellent. People speak like people speak. Con isn’t adverse to dropping the odd FBomb and I liked that, my mother in law is a former Police Officer and she can swear like a sailor when the situation calls for it. Villains aren’t giving out James Bond like monologues on their intentions – they just say what they have to say and get on with being villains. Speaking of which there are a few good ones in this. Keep an eye on Roger Devilliers , he’s a great fleshed out creep of a bad guy, the type James Oswald writes so well.
Oswald’s USP, the thing for me that sets him above his contemporaries is just the right dash of the supernatural he adds to his stories. He does it in such a clever way that at any point with any old Rent- A-Ghost shennanigans that appear to be going on, can, if you want them to be, be explained away with rational explanations. If not you can run with it and enjoy the books on a completely different level. I honestly thought that with this being an entirely new series that part might be done away with and when I was given the opportunity of a bit of old Scooby Doo in No Time To Cry I broke into a massive grin. It is exceptionally clever writing to be able deliver two types of book in one. I’m not spoiling it, you can decide for yourself if it’s all perfectly natural or things that go bump in the night.
Another of James Oswald’s talents is weaving plot lines together that at the outset seem impossible to link. At one point in this, multiple plot lines had tangled themselves into such a Gordian Knot that I had no idea how they’d be brought together. In the exciting conclusion of No Time To Cry Oswald managed it in the same completely believable manner that he shows in doling out talents to his protagonists. I believed every second of it.
No Time To Cry – the first of what I hope are many Constance Fairchild books captivated and thrilled me. The second in the series “Nothing to Hide” is set for publication in July 2019 and I for one can’t wait.
Until then, as this book has rekindled my desire, no matter how much it hurts, for James Oswald’s writing, I have a bit of catching up to do with Tony McLean.
I know my mum won’t mind me reading them without her now, after all where she is I’m pretty sure they have all the really good books.
You can buy No Time To Cry for Kindle HERE
You can buy the excellent audio version with a fantastic performance by Rose Akroyd HERE